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Indie publishers/developers say its hard to work with Sony/Playstation


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Big article on the woes Indie publishers/devs have to deal with when it comes to the Playstation store and Sony's lack of communication. A lot to digest but there was a lot of Twitter activity from Indies venting their frustrations in dealing with Sony to get their games visibility.

 

https://kotaku.com/playstation-is-hard-to-work-with-devs-say-1847210060

 



However, the information about just how much worse it is for indies to work with Sony than Microsoft or Nintendo keeps piling in.

“Oh yeah, so there’s Nintendo who supports you,” one such response begins. “[Then] Microsoft who supports you and [then] there is Sony who supports its own AAA machine and gives a fuck about everyone else.”

 



“Sony does not understand what indie means,” an independent publisher tells me under the condition of anonymity, via Twitter DMs. “Not at all. For them indie is something in the lower million budgets.”

“No platform is ‘great’, but Sony is particularly terrible,” says another publisher to me via Discord. “They know it too—they’ve had a problem for a long time, and they’ve been telling devs they have a problem for a long time, but they’ve just never fixed anything, so the problem persists.”

The issue isn’t simply that Sony charges a minimum of $25,000 to be featured in a visible position on the PlayStation Store—it’s that this is, for most indie games, the only way to be visible. Without paying, developers are reporting that games get completely lost, which many have told us is in stark contrast to both Microsoft and Nintendo’s stores. While both offer ways to pay for prominence (although we’ve as yet been unable to confirm exact figures), what we keep being told is that they also offer many other free options too.

“We get people every week saying, ‘Saw your game on the [Xbox] dashboard today!!’,” a publisher of smaller indie titles tells me. “The Xbox UI feels like a mess, but in reality, it’s actually kinda interesting that they just have so many different places and spaces to feature games.”

Meanwhile on Switch we’re told, “Without paying for featuring, there are spots on the eShop you will appear without paying. New releases, great deals, all those kinds of lists. And they will put new releases and decent discounts into the Discover tab too.”

 



When I ask any of these industry figures what it is that Microsoft and Nintendo does better, the answer is always the same: Communication.

“It helps every part of the process,” one indie publisher tells me of Microsoft’s quick responses. Eric Freeman, independent developer of Deja Vu, tells me over Twitter, “Besides their cut for sales we’ve never been asked for money. And everyone on the ID@Xbox team have been incredibly nice and responsive.” He went on to detail how Microsoft have repeatedly invited them to be in sales, making the process simple.

“Heck, they invite you to shows,” another publisher tells me. “They not only invite you if you are already popular, they try to invite quality games no matter if you know them already. And Game Pass. Game Pass is a thing and it offers good value.”

Meanwhile, communication with Sony is reportedly extraordinarily difficult. Ragnar Tørnquist of indie developer Red Thread Games tweeted his frustrations. “We’re a pretty established developer with a proven track record, but I honestly have no idea who to even contact to make console sales happen. It’s like trying to be heard in the vacuum of space.”

“If I literally can’t speak to someone at a platform about an issue,” agrees a publisher over Discord, “and the issue goes on for weeks, it just creates problems.”

 

Much, much more at the article but its obvious the early days of the PS4 are a memory for many indie developers.

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13 minutes ago, Romier S said:

Much, much more at the article but its obvious the early days of the PS4 are a memory for many indie developers.

 

I've not read it yet but I was thinking this is may be a recent change (compared to early PS4 days) that might line up with how distant PlayStation feels to the overall public now.

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13 minutes ago, Romier S said:

Much, much more at the article but its obvious the early days of the PS4 are a memory for many indie developers.

 

You and I debated that issue a year ago in this thread when Yoshida was moved to push the Indies Initiative. Talk of things not being the way they were for Indie developers and Playstation has been the scuttlebutt for a long time now, and even Jim Ryan brazenly stated that he considered Indies to be less relevant to the platform. Things seemed to change rather dramatically over there once Adam Boyes and Nick Suttner departed, and it's sad that not even putting Yosp in charge of that division has really changed anything.

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Large thread on Reset also. They have to improve. They back some great smaller titles(really tired of the word indie) but it seems obvious if you aren’t lucky enough to be Chicory, Bugsnax, or Kena, they don’t help you much. A lot of it seems to boil down to a real lack of any kind of communication. They need to fix that first I think. A lot of things said about the store front and exposure but all platforms seem to have those same problems to various degrees.

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The problem I think is that they know they don't need to invest much attention in indie devs. That doesn't mean they shouldn't of course. To do so is to nurture the future talent who will go on to create major games and development studios that Sony will probably someday swallow up, but Playstation has kind of usurped Nintendo as the Disney of gaming in the sense that they can do so much more as a company, but why bother when you're already #1?

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35 minutes ago, Paul said:

Large thread on Reset also. They have to improve. They back some great smaller titles(really tired of the word indie) but it seems obvious if you aren’t lucky enough to be Chicory, Bugsnax, or Kena, they don’t help you much. A lot of it seems to boil down to a real lack of any kind of communication. They need to fix that first I think. A lot of things said about the store front and exposure but all platforms seem to have those same problems to various degrees.

 

Indeed. Rifling through some of the developer tweets, its absolutely more to do with the lack of communication or perceived lack of "give a shit" that is bothersome and I totally understand where they are coming from. Kotaku posted up a big "OMG Sony wants indie publishers to pay 25k to get their game attention!" article.....and my first reaction was well, yeah. It's advertising so of course they want you to pay. I'm sure Microsoft and Nintendo don't spotlight games for free either. The difference appears to be in that both Microsoft and Nintendo provide more options in their interfaces for their games to be spotlighted so even if you don't pay, there's a good chance your game is going to get some level of attention. The second major difference is that these folks are left to piss in the wind when it comes to getting responses from Sony on simple things like discounting their own games. Whereas both Microsoft and Nintendo are on the spot with their interactions with these smaller devs/publishers. That's a problem that needs attention. It's one that Sony seemingly even acknowledges but doesn't seem to give a shit about enough to do something to fix it as @Angry the Clownpointed out. 

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25 minutes ago, Romier S said:

The difference appears to be in that both Microsoft and Nintendo provide more options in their interfaces for their games to be spotlighted so even if you don't pay, there's a good chance your game is going to get some level of attention. The second major difference is that these folks are left to piss in the wind when it comes to getting responses from Sony on simple things like discounting their own games.

 

For context, I don't know much about the indie developer universe these days. It's been years since I was covering this stuff. But, as a regular gamer who has every platform and looks at each platform's digital marketplaces pretty regularly, I struggle to see that Sony is being less friendly to indie titles. Just last night my wife stopped me so she could see a giant, well-placed promo for Journey, saying "wow that looks beautiful - you should try it."

 

Anecdotes are anecdotes, I know, but I have a hard time seeing any evidence that Sony is less friendly to indie devs than others, at least as a consumer. In fact, I'm 100% sure that I've discovered more indie titles on PlayStation marketplace than any other place, save maybe Apple Arcade. Maybe I'm wrong here, and you all certainly know a lot more than I do here, but I don't see it? The complaints sound like a lot of industry thrash around indie gamers struggling to get the velvet touch from Sony, but that's kind of always been the case in every creative industry, no? You all vie for airtime?

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There is a nice story that delves into the situation over on IGN by Rebekah Valentine. It’s long but a good read. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the link to post here for some reason.

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From November 2019, when Shu's "indie" focus got announced.

 

Quote

What indie devs/third parties care more about is who their rep is, how effective that rep is, and what the general third party support is like. That's the likes of Gio I'm talking about. Those guys leaving are an issue.


The decisions + changes from back then, and what went into Sony making them, are what's causing that twitter thread etc. 

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